Originally invented as a treat for children in Taiwan back in the 1980s, the sweet tea drink known as bubble tea goes by names that include pearl milk tea. Combining strong black or green tea with milk and flavorings such as fruit and taro syrups, the drink has pearls of tapioca floating near the bottom to suck up through an oversized straw.
On average, a standard 16-ounce serving of pearl milk tea contains:
- 278 calories
- 0.6 grams of fat
- 68 grams of carbohydrates
- 1.2 grams of protein
Pearl Milk Tea Calories
The calories in bubble tea depend on how much sugar, milk, fruit, taro and toppings you or the bubble tea shop you're frequenting add to the tea base. On average, calorie counters estimate a 16-ounce glass of the frothy drink delivers 278 calories.
The milk tea chain Boba Guys estimates its milk tea calories to range from 62 to 400 calories for 16 ounces. Although that is a significant chunk of calories to drink down, it can be lower than drinking a 16-ounce Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino Blended Crème at Starbuck's, for example, which packs 370 calories.
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The Major Source of Calories
The primary source of milk tea calories come from the big tapioca bubbles that sink to the bottom of the beverage. There's about 1/3 cup of the pearls in 16 ounces, equaling 180 calories in a cup of the tea.
Despite their high-calorie load, tapioca pearls provide some nutritional benefits that might make their presence in the drink worthwhile. The pearls deliver small amounts of calcium, folate, manganese and iron and are low in sodium, fat and cholesterol.
Tapioca is also smooth on the stomach, making it a good choice for those with digestive issues. Finally, tapioca delivers fiber and carbohydrates that will make you feel full and suppress hunger, keeping you from giving in to the temptation to consume even more calories.
Sugar Content of Peal Milk Tea
Milk tea calories also depend upon the amount of sugar and other carbohydrates it contains. Per teaspoon, sugar serves up 16 calories. The average 16-ounce drink has 22 grams of sugar — 5.5 teaspoons — meaning that 88 calories in the 16-ounce drink from come sweetener.
The amount of sugar changes, depending on how sweet you like your drink as well as what type of milk you choose to use. Dairy milk has 161 calories per 8-ounce cup and 12 grams of sugar. Another popular option, almond milk, delivers 32 grams of sugar per cup, with 441 calories in 8 ounces.
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More Bubble Tea Nutrition
The calories in a cup of tea can add up quickly, depending on how you customize your drink. Although the idea of pearl tea ingredients including tea, milk, tapioca bobas and flavoring is the same worldwide, there's a lot of variation on ingredients that can affect the calorie count in your glass. These include:
1. Type of Milk: At Boba Guys, a boba tea shop chain in the U.S., organic milk options include organic oat milk or almond milk in addition to the dairy variety. Some pearl teas at shops around the world are made with sweetened condensed milk at 65 calories in every tablespoon added to milk tea.
2. Fruit Flavoring: All-natural fruit purees can keep calories lower than some artificially flavored fruit syrup. As a street food, the type of syrup used varies by vendor. The Boba Guys chain uses fresh fruit purees to sweeten drinks as a way to keep calories lower.
- What's Cooking America: Bubble Tea
- Nutritionix: Taro Bubble Tea
- Starbucks: Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino® Blended Crème
- Medical News Today: 11 Healthy Nutrition Facts About Tapioca
- USDA: Food Nutrition Database
- Food & Wine: A Brief History of Boba
- Boba Guys: Nutritional Info
- Nuts: Taro Root Powder Mix
- Self Nutrition Data: Tapioca, Pearl, Dry Nutrition Facts & Calories